Property owners could be facing a hefty bill if their building is damaged by fire.
The Nelson Fire Department recently completed an update to the Fire Regulation Bylaw which includes stronger regulations for property owners and insurance brokers after a building has been consumed by fire.
“It was definitely associate with the last major commercial fires [like the Kerr Apartments and Redfish Grill] that we had in Nelson. Plus some of the residential home fires that we had,” said Nelson fire chief Simon Grypma.
“We were having a difficult time addressing some of the concerns and issues with the insurance companies and having them deal with the clean up in a timely manner.”
With some buildings the fire department is left dealing with out of town landlords and insurance brokers.
“When people are long distance landlords and representatives they don’t really have an impact of what’s happening in the community because they don’t see it on a daily basis like some of the other local landlords, building owners and insurance companies and brokers where they take a more personal approach to it,” said Grypma.
The new regulation is intended to “stream line” the departments requirements so that sites can be cleaned up so that the public isn’t adversely effected.
“It’s also going to ensure that the Nelson commerce which is traditionally tourism is not adversely effected by buildings that are either burned out or possibly effecting the commerce of the downtown core,” said Grypma. “It’s just a general clean up of the wording to make sure that insurance companies and property owners deal with the aftermath of a fire quicker.”
If property owners do not clean up the damage to their property, and the city and fire department has to do it themselves, the property owners will be charged by the city.
“We could clean that up and if homeowners or commercial property owners do not comply with that order to clean up and we do have to take that action to clean up the area then we would bill the property owner for the cost and if they refuse to pay it would just be attached to the city taxes,” said Grypma.
The updated bylaw also addresses fires that are caused by “illegal activities such as marijuana grow ops or a clandestine drug lab.”
If the fire is shown to have been caused by an illegal activity then the property owner will face the cost of the fire suppression and the resources used by the city and fire department.
“It depends on how big the fire is,” said Grypma about the potential cost an owner could be billed for. “The Redfish Grill and the Kerr were significantly large fires that cost thousands and thousands of dollars for the fire department to attend and extinguish those fires, so the bill can be anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 dollars.”
The importance of smoke alarms was also addressed in the Fire Regulation Bylaw.
Grypma said that until recently smoke alarms were only required in buildings built since the early 80s, but now the alarms are mandatory in all residential buildings.
“Fire department has the authority to issue tickets in the even that people aren’t insuring that their smoke alarms are working and if they are actually installed or not,” he said.
Smoke alarms are important in heritage buildings and homes where fire separations are not necessarily as good as they should be.
“To safely protect your family you really need to have a working smoke alarm so that in the even that there is a fire people get adequate warning and they can leave the premises,” said Grypma.